Arriving by air in KRAKOW, Eastern Poland you can relax. You are truly blessed because it is now called Pope John Paull II Airport after the young goalkeeper at the local seminary who changed his soccer shoes for the 'Shoes of The Fisherman' and became the Pope in Rome.
There is a speedy light rail connection to the city centre and we sped past small farms houses with grass and moss growing on the roofs and geese, ducks and chickens scratching in the cobbled and mud spattered farm yards. Poland's top holiday and tourist destination is the capital of the Province of Malopolska/Lesser Poland, and has many medieval sights and the best is the Market Square, 200m x 200m and the best and largest in Europe, as old as 1257 and with many indoor and outdoor restaurant with giant umbrellas advertising the local ZYWIEL beer, with flower stalls, lots of tour groups, and pigeons, 'rats with wings', Wooden Allen called them. St. Mary's church or basilica has a bugle call from one of its towers every hour and a favourite meeting place is the prod Adasien at the foot of the monument to famous poet Adam Mickiewicz. Krakow is Poland's capital of jazz, with lots of clubs.
In an oval shape surrounding the old town is The Plantey, a narrow green park area with trees, fountains, flowers and walking paths. I started at St. Florian's Gate and walked through the market square via ul. Grodzka and ul. Kanonickzn which leads to the Wawel Royal Castle overlooking the River Vistula near where I was staying. Also worth visiting is Kazimierz, with a history of the Polish Jews, and where Steven Spielberg came to film scenes for Shindler's List. I was attracted to the corner of ul. Grodzka and ul. Poselska by the voice of an angel, and it turned out to be Zoriana Luzeska singing and playing her Bandura, the national instrument of Ukraine. She came from a small village near Lviv called Drogobich. It's a plucked instrument like a big guitar and bowl shaped, with 20 strings and a dozen bass strings. She was enchanting the passing crowds.
The indoor market and former cloth hall in the Market Square had lots of stalls selling amber, gold and silver, religious icons, inlaid copper, wood carvings, childrens toys and clothes and Polish crystal plus lots of green dragons of all sizes and materilas, the local symbol. There were guys dressed up in molded plastic beer mugs advertising a pub crawl and one of them was fast asleep with his legs in the air near a fountain. In the narrow streets tiny booths sold pretzels of all kinds and tiny ceramic birds, that when you soaked them in water and blew on the end imitated bird calls.
Lots of Communist era tours to join -broken down steel works and old apartments and you were to be driven in a Trabant, or a Soviet Lada 2107 or and old Fiat 125. They feed you on pickled cucumber, salted bread and vodka. Many small hotels and hostels have sprouted up and I chose The Secret Garden www.thesecretgarden.pl where I got a terrific single room and breakfast and free 24 internet next to my room in the Violet Lounge.Also free coffee and tea 24 hours a day, giant TV and more. All the rooms have different designs and themes. There are lots of these hostels with names such as Elephant on the Moon, Anytime Hostel, Good Bye Lenin etc. When I checked in the girl at the desk said that her mother was the innovative designer and they had been open just one year with rave reviews, including one from me.
I just had enough time to visit WISLA KRAKOW, who have the 'dubious distinction' of being knocked out of the UEFA CUP by Tottenham Hotspur last week. I went to meet some of the officers and walked through the beautiful Dr. H.Jordanc Park with hundreds of granite busts on pinths, of statesmen, poets, warriors etc., and the only one that I recognised was Pope John Paul II. There were construction crews and giant cranes, and lots of dirt-perhaps the coach and players wanted to bury themselves after the embarrassment of Spurs, but in fact a large new stand was going up to make a capacity of 34,000 all seated and the city and stadium is a 'reserve' site for 2012.
KRAKOW, Poland is a 'gem' and lots of discount airlines such as www.ryanair.com and www.wizzair.com to get you there.